Category Archives: Recognition

Decatur Book Festival Rocks

Well, it’s been a while I since I actually wrote a Blog post, so I thought this would be a good time to catch up. I won’t go into a lot of past stuff. Instead, I will start with this past weekend.

I drove down to Georgia for the Decatur Book Festival. For the fourth year I was fortunate enough to stay at Mary Cunningham’s house. Mary is the author of the acclaimed Cynthia’s Attic middle grade fantasy series. Staying at Mary’s house is like staying at one of the greatest B&B’s in the world. The house is lovely, the amenities are to die for, Mary makes the most awesome pasta salad, and her husband grills the most fabulous and awesome steaks ever anywhere in the world.

On Thursday Mary took me to her local writers’ group for an author event. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation from M.L. Malcolm, author of HEART OF LIES at the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center (a LOVELY facility!) It was a really neat experience. Later that evening, the group went to dinner together at this lovely little restaurant called Little Hawaiian in downtown Carrollton. This was one of the BEST restaurants I have been to in a really long time. Tempura Shrimp with the own sauce and I had to stop myself from licking the little cup. For my main course I had the Hawaiian Noodle Bowl and I just cannot find words to describe it. WOW!!! Did I mention the bread and dipping sauce…sigh!

So brand new debut author Gale Borger from Wisconsin flew in for the festival and stayed at Mary’s house as well. We had such a great time. Gale’s first book, a humorous mystery called TOTALLY BUZZED is just great. She did such an awesome job selling to the adoring potential fans who visited our booth. I actually think she might be a natural.

Saturday at the festival Nick Valentino joined us. He was actually in town for DragonCon in Atlanta, but couldn’t resist seeing me. LOL I really was quite exhausted from having to sell Nick’s book (THOMAS RILEY). It almost got monotonous (just kidding—Nick is a sales dynamo and he has become somewhat of a rock star.) So, we are all standing around with almost nothing to do when romance author Betty Hudson comes flitting (she is just too darn cute) into our booth with a copy of her latest romance SLEEPING BOOTY in her hand. She was tickled to bits as she explains that after meeting Nick at the South Carolina Book Festival she was so taken that she simply HAD to write Nick and his book into her contemporary pirate novel. It was such a cool thing to watch as Nick reacted t her news.

And as if that wasn’t enough to keep Nick’s feet five feet off the ground, another gal strolls into the booth and asks Nick to sign her Kindle…right beneath her autograph from Charlaine Harris. You can actually find the video on Nick’s Blog.

So with all of the great things happening, you have to figure that there would be some not so good. The incidents were few, but pretty major for me.

First, let me thank the young teen boy who caught me and prevented me from cracking my head open as I fell down three marble steps when some old guy’s dog ran under my foot as I was stepping up. Here’s a hand gesture for the old guy who then turned around and snapped, “Ex-scuse me!” and stomped off like I had done something to him. JERK!

So then on Sunday I am walking back to the booth after visiting the local bookstores, The Little Shop of Stories, and I pass by this pub with tables outside. There are five guys (four White and one Mexican-I find this relevant) sitting there and one of the White guys says, and I quote, “Maybe if we could get all the niggers and Muslims together in that mosque at ground zero we could just blow it up and get rid of them all at once.”

To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. I just stopped, turned to them and said, “REALLY? Welcome to fucking American, you moron!” Come on people, do you really need to talk like that in public? If you want to be stupid, do it in your own space and don’t infect the rest of us your stupidity!!

So, as Sunday came close to an end, I was sitting in the booth ringing up a credit card sale and Sam Morton (author of the YA novel BETRAYED) walks up, stops, and with a serious look on his face he says, “You know, when you get in the bathroom and have to go really bad is NOT the time to discover you have your underwear on backwards.” I laughed so hard I snorted, like four or five times. I honestly didn’t think I could stop laughing. And bless his heart, his day didn’t get any better. He texted me later to tell me he had made it 50 miles out of Decatur , headed home, and he had a blow out and had been waiting for the repair truck for over an hour, and guess what…he had to pee. But he was confident that as soon as he dug his thingy out of his backward drawers the truck would arrive with spotlight glaring and lights flashing.

I think, though, that I can say that the very best part of the entire trip was watching my authors sell several hundred books to eager readers, readers of all ages. I have the most super duper authors in the world.

I want to thank the authors who attended for all their support and hard work.

Diana Black (WOOF: Women Only Over 50)

Gale Borger (Totally Buzzed)

Mary Cunningham (The Missing Locket, The Magic Medallion, Curse of the Bayou, The Magician’s Castle and WOOF: Women Only Over 50)

Sam Morton (DisaVowed, Betrayed)

Nick Valentino (Thomas Riley)

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Independents at what cost?

Who loves Independent bookstores? I’d really like for you to take a moment after you read this note and tell the rest of what the name of your favorite Independent bookstore is and why. I’d also like you to tell us where that store is. They deserve to recognized! But before you do that, I want to share my current thoughts with you. This comes on the heels of a week of phone calls, e-mails, and one snail mail letter regarding Independent bookstores. 

Okay, I’m going to speak freely and hope not to get kicked out of the industry, but I have to ask. 

How are the Independent stores going to survive if many of them have taken on the attitudes of the superchains? We, authors and publishers, are constantly driving ourselves insane with ways to market, many times focusing on marketing to the Independent stores with the sole purpose of supporting them as Independents. 

What the heck for? 

I don’t direct this at all Independent stores, just the ones who feel the need to: 

1. Forgo good customer service.

2. Refuse to do author events.

3. Treat most authors like second hand muck.

4. Refuse to think outside the box when picking books to sell. 

These are just a few of the things my authors and I Have faced over the last two weeks with more than a dozen Independent stores in 4 different states. 

When we call to talk to them, they are rude. We leave messages, they never return calls. We drop by with promo materials they hold them like they are infested with bacteria. (One Independent store actually dropped the materials into trashcan as author was leaving store–gosh how good that author must have felt seeing that.) 

It seems to be becoming common practice to charge authors to do events? They call it co-op, but it is far worse. Two stores this week, claimed they only work with Self-published authors if–I explained we are an Independent publisher, they insist this is pretty much the same as self-publishing-um, side note: why are we consider self-pubbed (and not in a good way) because we are Independent, and yet they are Independent and are convinced they deserve to be worshipped and adored. Back to point: we pay a certain amount to be on the shelf, on consignment, they won’t order through distribution channels, we pay a higher price to be in store and mentioned in newsletter, and another twice as high price for an event. PLUS we have to give them 50% discount. Um, and this wasn’t just one store it was two in as many days. Two different states. 

When did it become okay for Independent stores to look down upon other Independent businesses with total disdain. I had one author go back to a store several times. She asked who the owner was, was given a name and told she wasn’t in. Went back a few days later, asked for owner, was told by “customer service rep” wearing name badge with the same name as the owner that the owner was not in. Okay, it could have been the same name different person, but what are the chances, really? 

Augie Aleksy, World's Greatest Bookseller!

And what happens to Independent stores when they refuse to bring in anything but the bestsellers and everyone already has all the best sellers? The best seller list has been known to keep the same books on it for weeks at a time. 

Doesn’t this cut into potential sales when customers buy them up the first week? What do they buy the second week? 

There are authors out there who are marketing their butts off to readers and doing everything right, but still can’t sell books because they want to support their Independent stores but the Independent stores won’t carry the books the readers want. Those same Independent stores get furious when we Independent pubs and authors promote the likes of Amazon. It is traitorous, they tell us and they aren’t going to support us if we do that. Problem is we do that because they won’t support us. 

I ask again, why is it demanded that we support a business that refuses to support us? 

And the poor readers. I often visit bookstores when I travel. I rarely tell anyone I am a publisher, I am usually visiting to buy books or just enjoy the feel of a cozy bookstore. The last ten Independent bookstores I have been in were dreadful. I was never greeted, not once in any of the ten stores. I asked for help in a couple and while the responses were varied, only ONE bookseller was willing to help me, and that wasn’t until after she finished talking to her daughter about her grandson’s upcoming birthday party—15 minutes. Glutton that I am, stayed just to see how long it would take. 

Several of the stores did not have the books I was looking for and one refused to even try to get it because it was not from a real publisher. Really? 

Once Upon A Crime, Minneapolis, MN

I LOVE Independent bookstores. I used to own one, and I miss it dreadfully. But I can say with pride that even the nastiest most disgusting and rude customers were treated with respect and my staff and I did everything in our power to ensure they were satisfied, we were even nice to the creepy guy who sat in the back corner of the store reading the romance novels and making scary moaning noises. Why? Because he was a customer and after his little sit downs, he always bought books. 

I beg of you Independent booksellers out there, don’t put yourselves up on pedestals and think you are better than everyone else and should be treated special. Give us the good customer service our loyalty and money earns us and let US put you up on the pedestals. If you treat us well, we will adore you. 

Now, because I ask you to do it, I will tell you my favorite Independent bookstores. 

First and foremost is Centuries & Sleuths in Forest Park, IL. If you’ve never met Augie Aleksy, you should make the trip. He is a delight and he loves his customers. I honestly think he is my favorite bookseller ever. 

I also give huge kudos to the folks over at Olde Towne Books & Tea in Oswego, IL. These people are just plain cool. 

Another store in Woodstock, IL that earns my praise is Read Between the Lynes, I’ve never been there, but have worked them repeatedly and they are nice as pie. 

Ooh, and the Pat and her gang at Once Upon a Crime in Minnesota. Now, those are some nice folks who really know how to treat their customers. 

Mr. Shaw who owns Books Plus in Amelia Island, FL is a doll and his store caters to their customers. 

There are plenty more, but I would like to know who YOUR favorite stores are and why. Don’t they deserve your praise?

A New Review for Me

I’ve been chatting a bit with Jennifer Wylie (@jen_wylie) on Twitter lately. I first saw her tweeting with @shaydenfl about his S.H.I.T.S. posts–you gotta check those out. Well, Jen started following my Sassy Gal Blog Tour (which has hit a huge snag due to my bad planning and health issues), but anyway, Jen posted comments on my tour and ended up getting a FREE copy of my romance novel DARK SHINES MY LOVE. She liked it. Here are some snippets from her review. You can read the entire review at her new Blog: Jennifer Wylie’s Blog

The latest book I’ve read, and my first to review on my blog, is Dark Shines My Love. Author Alexis Hart has truly woven a wonderful story in this romantic novel. I would say that I couldn’t put it down however as I read it on my computer I’ll just say I literally did not step away until I’d finished.

She goes on a bit about how brilliant I am…er the story is…er…she goes on…

The descriptive writing is amazing and the dialog pulls you along with the characters emotions.

I can honestly say that it warms my heart to know that someone other than me gets the humor when I write it. That has not always been the case. LOL I know this because Jen also says…

You will find both humor and seriousness in this book, and of course some wonderful love scenes.

Okay, I was really pleased with the part about the love scenes. I absolutely hate writing love scenes. I cannot write sex scenes, I have a very hard time writing sex, but I guess I do a little better with love scenes. I am a little more comfortable when there is emotion involved, maybe that is the key for me.

Thankfully, Jen writes what every author wants to read about their own work. This is how good buzz gets started.

Overall, I would definately recommend Dark Shines My Love. Any reader who enjoys a good romance novel with a touching love story that captures you and pulls you along until the very end should give this book a read!

Thank you, Jen, for a wonderful review. It is actually one of my best ever. God Bless Twitter and the Blogosphere!

My Dad

Okay, my father has been gone for a very long time now. I miss him every day. But it is an odd feeling because I really didn’t know my dad all that well.

My folks split when I was about three and I don’t have too many memories of him. We moved from Michigan to Florida shortly after that, so I didn’t even have the luxury of weekend visits or anything. Unfortunately, my father refused to travel down to FL because he insisted he would be tarred and feathered or hung for marrying a white woman. This made my life a little sad.

When I was eleven I was angry and told my mother I wanted to go live with my dad–hey I was a kid–I figured it would have to be a better life. So my mom took me to Michigan to meet my father. Okay, not the dream reunion I had envisioned. He was more nervous than I and the entire visit was very uncomfortable. We did come to an understanding. He didn’t want me to live with him, but we could talk on the phone every once in a while.

Being the clever kid that I am, I started calling him collect every month. At first he would refuse the charges, but eventually he began accepting them and we settled into a monthly routine. Eventually, I started just calling on my own dime.

Over the years I began sending him pictures and report cards, and those special little things you always hope your parents will be proud of. We developed a very good long distance relationship and as I grew older, he made a point of telling me during each call that he loved me and that he was proud of me. My dad was not a favorite among the other members of my family (my mom’s side) and I never knew his side of the family. But over the years, he came to be a tremendously important person in my life. Our phone calls even increased to sometimes twice a month and we both looked forward to them.

Now, I envied all my friends who had both a mom and dad, but many of them were not close to their dads. I have to say that despite the distance and circumstance, we did grow very close. For years I feared that when he passed I would have regrets for not being there, or not knowing him better, or being a better daughter, but when the time finally came I didn’t have the regrets.

I remember my last call with him. We talked for a little while. I told him about my current drama, he reminded me not to marry a white man, and when we ended the phone call he reminded me how truly proud of me he was and that I had turned into a fine young woman. He said he loved me and and always had, and I told him I loved him too.

A week later, I got the call. I was devastated. I would never truly know my father, I would never feel his influence in my life. But I realize now that I did know him. Probably as well as anyone and that even with simple phone calls he had influenced my life because I worked twice as hard to make sure he was proud of me because I couldn’t be there for him.

My last words with my father were of love and I could not ask for anything more. I know that I’m truly blessed, even if we could not be together. I am who I am because my father played a tremendous role in my life, even from far away. For this I thank God every day.

I love you, Daddy. Always.

Why I do this!

There are days when I can’t help but wonder why I do this. Don’t get me wrong, but I love publishing. I love everything about books. I have for as long as I have actual memories. As a child I didn’t care about toys or clothes, I craved books. Still do, in any form I can get them in.

But then there are days like today. I am trying to learn how to format our titles for ePub, you know, the new “standard” eBook format. This is no easy task. There are so many details that I have to watch for and then after an hour or three of tweaking, I load it up to view it and there is one stinking line that just isn’t right. But I can’t just leave it because this is a business and I have to give the best possible product, so I spend another 45 minutes making that one stinking line right.

Anyways, then there are the phone calls from authors who want me to do something for them. Then there are the stores calling to ask if they can get a bigger discount because they are trying to stay in business and things are tough…uh, yeah…running a business myself. 🙂

So just when I am about to call it a day and crawl into a big hole of self-pity. I get this e-mail…sorry for breaking privacy rules here, but you have to see it…

Hi Karen,

The books arrived and there was much screaming going on as Katie and her sister helped to surprise Kier. Unfortunately Brynna is sick but she wanted to be screaming. Thought you might enjoy a few pics. 

The colors look fine to me.  Everyone agrees with your push for the bold title color.  YOU ROCK!

Mara

This is the mom of one of my Quake authors, Kieryn Nicolas–who just happens to be 15 years old. I met Kieryn at a writers conference and I have to tell you this kid is something else. The photos are the reaction, Kieryn’s and her support system’s. Kieryn received her first batch of books today, the nearly 300 copies they have pre-sold over the last month. These folks are on fire!

Their enthusiasm and zest for this business is inspiring and it reminds me why I do this. They are not the only authors who work hard and sell lots of books, but I am reminded that Kieryn is just 15 years old, still in school, living her life as a teenager, and still managing to begin her career as an author.

I hope that every author out there who has forgotten or has doubts about why they got into this business will look at this post and these photos and remember the thrill of that first book and how tremendous it feels to be a part of something that offers so much to so many.

And to all you readers out there, we love what we do and we do it for you.

You can order RAIN by Kieryn Nicolas at Kindle or you can e-mail Kieryn kieryn.nicolas@gmail.com and order autographed copies. I happen to know she has some about.

Evelyn David: Echelon Press Author Award

MurderOffTheBooks_mded-mttc-mdI knew when I read the first chapter of MURDER OFF THE BOOKS that it would be a winner. The entire book is just that good. But the readers had no way of knowing that until AFTER buying the book. Evelyn David is what I refer to as the Dynamic Duo. 

Marian Borden from New York and Rhonda Dossett from Oklahoma could not be more different if they’d come from different planets. But together they have developed a remarkable team both on and off the “paper.” Their combined effort in writing the story is nearly seamless and together they build characters that are multi-dimensional. 

Evelyn David is also a publisher’s dream team. Being so far apart not only allows for maximum exposure on a geographical level, but their ability to coordinate and implement marketing strategies is just plain brilliant. They have built a great network of fans in both readers and booksellers, and no matter the obstacles they have faced, and there have been plenty, they have never wavered in their efforts to work together to be something spectacular. 

With this all said, it pleases me very much to award Evelyn David (Marian Borden and Rhonda Dossett) my personal Tremendous Team Effort Award from Echelon Press for June 2009. 

Both halves of the team will receive specially designed awards and a gift of appreciation. 

Excellent work, Ladies!